Saturday, February 17, 2018
News Roundup

Some jobs lost, some added under Dunedin's 2013 budget

DUNEDIN — Landscaping and road improvements. A new promenade linking the waterfront to downtown. A 50-cent stormwater rate increase. Across-the-board employee raises of 1 percent. A free citywide recycling program.

These items and more are packed into the 2013 fiscal year budget that city commissioners preliminarily approved Thursday night.

Residents have one last chance to weigh in on the items at a second public hearing during the commission's Sept. 27 meeting. The final budget will be adopted at that meeting. The new fiscal year starts Oct. 1.

"We're doing a lot of good things, even though we're being what you like to call 'lean and mean,' " said Commissioner Julie Ward Bujalski. "I think there's a lot of well-rounded projects in this coming year's budget."

City Manager Rob DiSpirito said the city managed to balance its budget without reducing services to the community.

The total proposed budget of $73.3 million represents an 8.7 percent decrease from last year's budget.

The property tax rate would remain $3.38 per $1,000 of taxable assessed property value. That means a resident who has a $100,000 home with a $50,000 homestead exemption would see a tax bill of $169.

Property taxes fund about $5.6 million, or 24 percent, of the city's general fund.

Commissioners and staffers say they expect to begin or continue work on a number of projects during the next budget cycle. Among them:

• Renovating the Little League concession stand and clubhouse inside Highlander Park.

• Expanding the Dunedin Community Center fitness room and opening a teen room.

• Adding a reclaimed water pipeline and sprucing up landscaping at Edgewater Linear Park.

A stormwater rate increase of 50 cents a month, or $6 over the entire year, would go toward funding several key projects, including one that would reduce flooding in the Amberlea subdivision. It would also help generate seed money for the cleanup of Cedar Creek and Lake Sperry, public works director Doug Hutchens said.

Officials had initially thought they would have to cut four Saturday hours at the library, as well as reduce spending on audio books, DVDs and other materials by $53,000, or 25 percent.

But at commissioners' direction, staffers found enough money to ward off the cuts and to also add an extra part-time library assistant. The money was attained through savings from attrition and $40,000 in lowered pension plan expenses.

Of the $32,000 increase in the city's law enforcement budget, about $14,000 would go toward adding two school crossing guards at Belcher and Curlew roads to assist students walking north from the city of Dunedin to Palm Harbor Middle School.

The city contracts with the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office for law enforcement services.

The city wasn't able to avert all cuts, though.

Under the proposed budget, 10 staff positions would be cut through attrition, reorganization or elimination of vacant positions, and five workers would be laid off.

The city would add three full-timers (a parks service worker, a civilian fire inspector and an administrative assistant who would "float" among the clerk's, city manager's and parks offices) and five part-time positions (all at the library).

Officials say the move would save about $320,000 annually and bring the city's total number of employees to 338, down from 339 last year and a high of 401 six years ago.

The city would pull $163,000 from its general fund for employee raises. The proposal also contains $10,000 for salary increases for employees who, during upcoming job audits, are found to have taken on extensive extra duties.

Thursday's vote on the raises and layoffs was final because the employee pay plan is not based on an ordinance, which would require two separate votes.

"Our sorrow to those folks who did lose their jobs here," Mayor Dave Eggers said. "A big thank you for all the hours and years they gave."

Keyonna Summers can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 445-4153. To write a letter to the editor, go to tampabay.com/letters.

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